A charter flight carrying the returnees arrived at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) on Wednesday
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nation’s (UN) migration agency, has facilitated the safe return of more 160 Bangladeshi migrants stranded in Libya through its Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) program.
A charter flight carrying the returnees, including 159 men and one woman who were stranded in Libya due to the Covid and protracted political instability, arrived in Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) on Wednesday.
IOM assisted with the safe return of these migrants in coordination with the Embassy of Bangladesh in Libya, said a press release, adding that the body of one Bangladeshi national who died in Libya was also repatriated on this flight.
Prior to departure, the returnees underwent health checks, were offered pre-departure transportation assistance, counselling services and screened for underlying protection vulnerabilities by IOM.
Given the current Covid-19 situation, all returnees were also provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and took a Covid-test (PCR) prior to departure.
Government and IOM officials and staff in Dhaka provided food, health screenings, psychosocial support, information and cash assistance for onward travel from the airport to home.
The returnees will each receive a reintegration grant from IOM. Reintegration support is particularly important for migrants who, in some cases, have experienced physical and psychological trauma while stranded in Libya.
One of the returnees, seeking anonymity, said: “Life in Libya was very dangerous as hostilities continued there. I decided to return to my country as I could not earn enough money.
“It was very difficult to stay over there. I am grateful to IOM and the Government of Bangladesh for arranging my flight home. I am very happy that I will see my family after years.”
OM Bangladesh's Chief of Mission Giorgi Gigauri, said: “Stranded Bangladeshi migrants find themselves in precarious conditions in Libya, and Covid-19 has exacerbated their vulnerabilities. It is our number one priority to provide these returnees with a safe and dignified way to get home, and to support reintegration into their communities.
“To do this, we continue to work closely and constructively with the Government of Bangladesh, and I thank them for their ongoing efforts.
Since 2015, a total of 2,942 Bangladeshi migrants have returned from Libya through IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Program, which is a part of the larger EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.
The program facilitates orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration management through the development of rights-based and development-focused policies and processes on protection and sustainable reintegration.
The necessity of the VHR program was magnified in 2020, when 30 migrants – including 26 Bangladeshis – were shot and killed in a smuggling warehouses in the Libyan town of Mizdah.